27 Nov 1999
Alachua County is located in North Central, Florida. Spanish explorers roamed through this area as early as 1519. Later the Spanish built missions and farmed the land, producing food and cattle for themselves and the Seminole Indians. The word 'Alachua' is Seminole meaning 'jug'. One theory is that the County probably took this name because of the sinkhole in Payne's Prairie. In 1824 Alachua became Florida's ninth county. The county is dotted with medium to small towns.
Gainesville is the largest. It is the County seat and was founded in 1854 . It was named for Edmund Gaines, a hero of the Seminole War. This was citrus country until late in the 1800s when several freezes curtailed the citrus crop. The University of Florida was established in Gainesville in 1906. Their economy is based primarily on the University, medicine, tourism and business in agriculture.
Micanopy is the second oldest town in Florida (the oldest inland) It was originally known as Wanton and renamed Micanopy in 1826.after an Indian Chief. It was an Indian settlement when DeSoto explored this area in 1539. Hollywood used the streets of Micanopy for the films 'Doc Hollywood' with Michael J. Fox and 'Cross Creek', starring Mary Steenbergen and Rip Torn. Most of the buildings in town are on the National Historic Register. One mile north of Micanopy is Paynes Prairie State Preservre, where a small herd of wild American bison can sometimes be seen.
Cross Creek is a part of Alachua County made famous by the author of "The Yearling", Marjorie Kennan Rawlings. Her home and orange grove are a State Historic Site. Cross Creek joins Lochloosa Lake and Orange Lake.
Traxler existed from 1891 until 1906. The 3,000-acre plantation is the oldest in the state. The town was owned by W. H. Traxler. He and neighbors farmed the land and raised hogs and cattle. They built a cotton gin, store, church and post office. The railroads and highways bypassed Traxler, and families began drifting away. Today the town is no more. But, if you travel to the end of Bellamy Road in northwestern Alachua County, traces of Traxler can be seen. The Spring Hill United Methodist Church, a cemetery, the 100-year old general store, and the Traxler homestead with its freshly painted wood and wide verandas.
Hawthorne, settled in 1834, known as Grabal, then later in 1869 it was called Jamestown. Eventually, in 1880, the name was changed to Hawthorn, after James M. Hawthorn, the first settler. The 'e' was added in 1950. It is said that hunters travel from all over the world to enjoy the Hawthorne-Gainesville Hunt Club located deep in the forest, made famous by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of "The Yearling". She found this 12 room clapboard house while lost in a rain storm and called it 'The Hotel in the Hammock'.
Other towns are Alachua, Archer(named for Florida's first Secretary of State, James. T. Archer), Newberry, Hague, High Springs, LaCrosse, Melrose(also located in 3 other counties), Rochelle (home of Florida's 4th Governor, Madison Starke Perry), Santa Fe, Windsor and Waldo( the only passenger train station in Alachua County, the Amtrak Railway Depot)
Alachua County towns are filled with memories of the past, and many have modern industrial plants as well. Also it is home to the University of Florida in Gainesville, with approximately 44,000 students, and over 30,000 students at Santa Fe Community College.
The Historical Commission of Alachua County has published a set of driving tours. Few of the houses on the tour are open to the public, but they are interesting to read about and see. Also, William Bartran Trail in Alachua County is a car and bicycle self-guided tour. (903/273-5210).
Portions of above information gathered from:
Florida Travel Guide; Backroads of Florida, by Ann Ruff, 1992